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Patterns of Behavior

Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and the Founding of Ethology

It is hard to imagine, by their very name, the life sciences not involving the study of living things, but until the twentieth century much of what was known in the field was based primarily on specimens that had long before taken their last breaths. Only in the last century has ethology—the study of animal behavior—emerged as a major field of the life sciences.

In Patterns of Behavior, Richard W. Burkhardt Jr. traces the scientific theories, practices, subjects, and settings integral to the construction of a discipline pivotal to our understanding of the diversity of life. Central to this tale are Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen, 1973 Nobel laureates whose research helped legitimize the field of ethology and bring international attention to the culture of behavioral research. Demonstrating how matters of practice, politics, and place all shaped "ethology’s ecologies," Burkhardt’s book offers a sensitive reading of the complex interplay of the field’s celebrated pioneers and a richly textured reconstruction of ethology’s transformation from a quiet backwater of natural history to the forefront of the biological sciences.
Winner of the 2006 Pfizer Awad from the History of Science Society

648 pages | 16 halftones, 15 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology

Cognitive Science: Human and Animal Cognition

History: American History, European History

History of Science

Psychology: Animal Behavior, General Psychology


"At last, a really excellent and complete account of ethology’s checkered history. What emerges in Patterns of Behavior is a vivid demonstration that science is a human activity whose progress is influenced both by personality and by cultural context. This is a most distinguished contribution to the history of science."

Aubrey Manning, author of An Introduction to Animal Behavior

"A fascinating and often entertaining account of the life and work of some of ethology’s key figures. Burkhardt has done a tremendous job, meticulously analysing and describing the rise of ethology. . . . In order to study the genomic or neural mechanisms of bevaviour, we need to know how behaviour works, and for that an ethological analysis is crucial. This wonderful book shows very clearly how early ethologists made such analysis possible."

Johan J. Bolhuis | Nature

"Patterns of Behavior offers more than a nuanced history of the origins of ethology. The juxtaposition of the stories of Tinbergen
and Lorenz provides an intriguing case study of how the advancement of scientific fields depends as much on the management of the
social relations among scientists as on intellectual brilliance and institution-building."

Sharon Kingsland | Science

"This is a masterpiece. Twenty years in the making, this is the definitive account of the development of ethology. Beautifully written and immensely rich in detail, Patterns of Behavior is a wonderful reconstruction of the lives of the two founders of ethology, Niko Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz . . . Patterns of Behavior is essential reading for anyone who teaches or conducts research in animal behaviour, anyone interested in the history of science, or those who simply want to discover how two very different personalities
created an entirely new way of looking at animals."

T. R. Birkhead | Animal Behaviour

"Not knowing one’s roots is a common mistake in the early development of scientific disciplines, a problem that Burkhardt’s thoughtful, comprehensive and readable book should help to resolve. It should be read by all animal behaviour researchers to help put their own efforts into perspective."

Michael Taborsky | TREE

"Burkhardt beautifully describes both the human story and the science that has come out of it. An excellent book."

Colin Tudge | Biologist

"The most authoritative history of the field of ethology... A remarkable achievement. It brings together an immense amount of material in a scholarly, yet very readable, format. It also catches the enthusiasm of the participants in putting forward new ways of thinking about old problems, as well as some of the more acrimonious debates about particular issues."

Jerry A. Hogan | Ethology

"This monumental volume has been 26 years in the making and represents a mountainous effort of scholarship. . . . Burkhardt, a historian, makes a massive contribution to our knowledge of the development of animal behavior science. . . . A fascinating read, and a massive monument to the science of ethology."

Hans Kruuk | Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences

"I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. . . . I am convinced that  knowing the history of one’s field makes for better instructors and so recommend that all students of aniumal behaviour read this book and most notably all those who teach it."

Luc-Alain Giraldeau | Ecoscience

"This long, detailed, massively documented history of the origins of ethology . . . is a labor of love by a master historian of science. . . . Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of science in the twentieth century."

Alfred Kelly | American Historical Review

"Burkhardt has written the definitive history of ethology. He has blended science and situation into a coherent and instructuve tale."

Donald A. Dewsbury | BJHS

"This excellent book reads like a novel. . . . The author reconstructs the tortuous history of the struggle for the creation of the discipline of ethology via intriguing biographies and against the backdrop of global history. . . . This work will remain as the reference for complex relationships between theoretical development and fieldwork during the 20th century, which is to say that the book clarifies our understanding as well of the current situation of the sister science of anthropology."

Marcel Otte | History of the Philosophy of Life Science

Table of Contents

Theory, Practice, and Place in the Study of Animal Behavior
1. Charles Otis Whitman, Wallace Craig, and the Biological Study of Animal Behavior in America
2. British Field Studies of Behavior: Selous, Howard, Kirkman, and Huxley
3. Konrad Lorenz and the Conceptual Foundations of Ethology
4. Niko Tinbergen and the Lorenzian Program
5. Lorenz and National Socialism
6. The Postwar Reconstruction of Ethology
7. Ethology’s New Settings
8. Attracting Attention
9. Tinbergen’s Vision for Ethology
10. Conclusion: Ethology’s Ecologies


History of Science Society: Pfizer Award

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